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Politics & Government

How Can Syracuse's South Ave Corridor be Improved? New Study Shows Assets, Challenges, Possibility

South Ave Corridor Study

What are the prospects and challenges for Syracuse’s South Ave?  A new comprehensive study finds possibilities to improve the look, the vitality, and maybe perceptions of the area.  WAER’s Chris Bolt reports on the study details and some possible next steps.

Many Syracuse area residents likely drive on South Ave – as a thoroughfare into the city or out to Onondaga Hill or beyond.  And City official Nora Spillane knows the corridor has its perception problems

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
Portions of the South Ave corridor could be opportunities for improvement, according to recent study.

“It’s a distressed neighborhood no doubt, that has seen some violence as of late.  Statistically, (though) the perception of violence and the actual violence might not be the same, it’s still something we have to work on as a city in terms of enforcement.  But also, how do we bring in elements that outweigh that?  Neighborhood vitality is really critical.”

Credit South Ave Corridor Study
The study suggests several ideas for business development, and the property needed for commercial or mixed-use development. Spillane says such examples are not prescriptive; the city is open to other proposals.

It also might surprise some that data shows a business there has one built in positive – a fair number of potential customers.   Spillane is Deputy Commissioner for Neighborhood and Business Development … and she admits to being surprised at the potential for some business development

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
The price Rite department store is an example of business develop that serves needs of neighborhoods within the South Ave corridor.

“The challenge that Syracuse has is finding ways to inject private investment into challenging neighborhoods.  But one of the things that was very enticing about this neighborhood is it has some of those key factors, great traffic counts, great residents that have some disposable income to spend and demand.  Frankly, nobody’s going to put something anywhere where they don’t have demand.”

The study further found some natural assets that could allow for upgrading the overall look and feel of the corridor – which is what they heard from a series of community meetings

“I think one of the things that I was surprised by was the amenities: greenspace along the corridor, lower Onondaga Park, the (Onondaga) CreekWalk stage 2 will cross through there twice.  Those are real amenities that people don’t think of.  And how can we capitalize on that in term of events, or retail opportunities at those intersections which will be pedestrian and bike and automobile intersections, and tying those things in?”

Credit South Ave Corridor Study
The study found the corridor lacks a gas station, which is something residents say they would like.

Spillane adds improving the corridors into and out of Downtown Syracuse is a priority for Mayor Ben Walsh.  And the South Ave. Study can guide some progress .

“The mayor has really emphasized that our business corridors into and out of downtown are critical and probably the next steps for development for a thriving city.  And being able to say yes to things and no, and why, ‘This isn’t what the neighborhood wants or this doesn’t fit with the demands that we’ve seen’, I think, are really important to him to make smart, long-lasting development opportunities.”


  • Goal 1: Neighborhood Development - Encourage a mix of development that will enhance community and support established businesses.
  • Goal 2: Corridor Character- Enhance streetscape elements along the South Avenue Corridor.
  • Goal 3: Quality of Life - Provide enhanced services and amenities to residents to ensure healthy and holistic living.

First steps might be improving signage, better stripes on sidewalks, adding trees and bike racks.  And Spillane says if the somewhat challenged area is shown a little love, it might start to shift perceptions and eventually draw development that could long term, reduce crime, increase jobs and vibrancy.  The South Ave Corridor report includes ideas for development – some of which have already attracted private investment interest.